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How to Ensure Safe Autoclave Use

Autoclave best practices for staff and managers protect users, labs, and research

Though essential for sterilizing equipment, media, and other materials in the lab, autoclaves are notorious for the safety risks that arise with improper use and maintenance due to the high temperatures and high-pressure saturated steam they generate. 

Autoclave best practices for staff and managers protect users, labs, and research

Following best practices when using autoclaves is crucial to ensure effectiveness of the sterilization process and protect users and labs. Improper use introduces risks ranging from biohazard exposure to puncture or burn injuries, to explosive incidents capable of powerfully firing debris. The temperature and steam can pose direct burn risks and induce other events that lab staff must be aware of and make every effort to prevent. For example, autoclaving bleach-treated items can release toxic chlorine gas. In another example, incorrect loading or processing in an autoclave introduces an injury risk for nearby staff from broken glass, both during breakage and subsequent cleanup. Taking proper safety precautions before and after use keeps staff using the autoclave and those working near it safe, and can also prevent damage to the autoclave and surrounding environment. 

Users and managers share responsibility for ensuring safe use. Managers must ensure all personnel are fully trained and that safety guidelines, like those presented in this infographic, are easily referenced and adhered to. 

Download Lab Manager’s exclusive infographic for a list of autoclave safety tips for both staff and supervisors detailing:

  • Steps staff can take to minimize risks before starting an autoclave run
  • PPE guidelines for loading and unloading autoclaves
  • Instruments that can be used to reduce the risk of injury 
  • Important safety checks at each stage of autoclave use
  • Responsibilities of lead technicians and supervisors in labs using autoclaves

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